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Do You Enjoy an Old Fashioned Fire in the Winter Months?


If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, then now is definitely the right time to start thinking and planning for getting your fireplace ready for the winter ahead.

Everyone wants a cosy place to spend their evenings when it is dark and wintery.  And they want that cosiness to be trouble-free.

Here are a few tips so that you can plan for lighting the fire!

Book a professional chimney sweep

If you have not had your chimney swept after the last couple of winters, it is well past the time to have the inside of your chimney swept clear of soot and debris.  The same applies to a chimney for an open fire or a flue for a wood burner.  The chimney sweep will also check to make sure there is no damage.

Clean your fireplace

After the chimney has been swept, take a bit of time to give the fireplace itself a good clean.  Give the surround a thorough cleaning whether it is bricks, stone or tiles to remove any soot or dirt.  If you have a wood burner, clean the glass door so the flames give out an attractive appearance.  Sweep the inside of the stove or fireplace to remove any old ash and soot.  Keep the ash to one side - we will suggest how you can use this later in the post!

Get in a stock of wood

If you do not already have a stock of wood on hand, order a good supply of seasoned logs (from a sustainably managed source).  Always be careful never to burn wet, treated, polished, varnished or oiled wood nor waste woods such as pallets, furniture or fencing.  If you want the best type of wood for clean, long burning with a bright flame, then go for good quality hardwood species.  Examples in the UK and Europe include ash, oak, beech and birch while in the USA, dense hardwoods like maple, oak, birch and cherry are some of the better woods for heating and burn the hottest. 

On the other hand, avoid soft wood such as pine, fir and cypress as they will burn too quickly and produce more smoke.  

Sort out your wood storage

If you have the space, invest in log storage outdoors with smaller decorative storage areas indoors next to the fireplace, enabling you to stock up on a daily basis for what you need at hand.  There are plenty of good quality log storage units available with an overhead roof-type protection which you can install outdoors and use to stack your dry wood.  Remember to:

  • Keep your firewood high enough off the ground to avoid absorbing moisture.
  • Protect firewood from rain but keep the sides open so air can flow through and dry it.
  • Avoid stacking your wood against the house. 
  • While you are stacking, try to split a variety of sizes so you can more easily maintain the level of fire and heat output needed.
  • If you stack your firewood with exposure to the sun or prevailing winds, this will help ensure it is ready to burn when needed.

Top tips for lighting your fire!

For a wood burner...

Step 1 - Make a pile of kindling with 2 pieces of kindling on the bottom then turn another 2 pieces 90 degrees on top of them. keep repeating this, stacking them up like a game of Jenga.

Step 2 - Light 2 or 3 firelighters and drop these in the middle of the kindling stack created.

Step 3 - Leave the door slightly open to allow extra air into the stove. Keep the vents fully open too to ensure the kindling will catch fire. After 5 minutes the chimney will begin to warm up.

Step 4 - Build the fire up slowly. Add two small logs on top of the kindling while still leaving the door open.

Step 5 - After about 10 minutes, add one standard sized log to the fire while still keeping the door open as this will help the log catch fire.  Your stove should now be just about getting up to the correct temperature.

Step 6 - Finally, after another 10 minutes add another standard log. You can now close the door and control the stove by the airflow vents. But make sure not to completely close the vents straight away as the flue still needs warming before being able to do this. 

For an open fire... 

Step 1 - Ensure that all air vents in the fireplace are open. Put the logs on the bottom of the fireplace. It is important that the wood is cleft and dry.

Step 2 - Add a layer of small logs of about 2 inches thick, and then one or two layers of kindling.

Step 3 - Put a couple of firelighters on top of the layer of kindling wood.

Step 4 - Light it and then keep an eye on it until you are happy that all is well!   

Put that wood ash to good use

As garden fertilizer - Wood ash works well on blooming shrubs as well as flowering vines such as clematis, lilacs and nasturtium and flowers such as peonies, phlox and sweet peas.

To neutralize acidic soil - Wood ash has properties similar to agricultural lime as a fertilizer. Since it's alkaline in nature, it will neutralize acidic soil in your garden.  It will be good for all your non-acid loving crops like beets and melons. Lavender, rosemary and thyme also like "sweet" soil, meaning non-acidic. 

To nourish calcium-loving plants - With its high calcium levels, wood ash is a wonderful soil additive for those plants that like extra calcium such as beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, peas, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. 

To deter garden pests - Sprinkle wood ash around the base of your plants to deter slugs and snails from attacking them.